Car Accident Injury Frequently-Asked Questions

What if I was not wearing a seat belt or talking on my cell phone at the time of my accident? Can I still recover damages?

It depends. California follows what is called "comparative fault". Comparative fault is a rule to divide responsibility and damages between the injured person and the driver causing the accident. If the injured person is partially at fault for causing the accident, the recovery for damages is reduced by the percentage of his or her own fault. So, for example, if the injured driver is found to be 25% at fault, then the ultimate award of the monetary damages would be reduced by that same percentage. A judge or jury determines the percentage of fault attributable to each party. This rule may also be used by a defendant driver to reduce his percentage of responsibility in cases where there are multiple defendants. For example, in a multi defendant vehicle crash, if a particular defendant was only 10% responsible for causing the accident, they will be responsible for only 10% of the damages received by the plaintiff.

I'm confused about whether or not I should hire a lawyer or just let the insurance company handle things. Is there any way to get a free legal evaluation?

It is important to remember that insurance adjusters will contact the injured party as soon as possible after an accident. They will present themselves as a friend of the injured person or family. However, their ultimate goal is to settle the case for the least amount possible, before the injured party  learns of their rights by speaking to an attorney. Their practice is to always tape record these phone calls and to ask questions that might seem innocuous at first, but are usually one-sided to the benefit of the insurance company. Unfortunately, for some insurance companies their approach is "Delay, Deny and Defend" legitimate claims to maximize their profits. Hence, it is almost always a good idea to speak with an attorney before agreeing to be interviewed or providing any medical and private information. We do not charge for initial consultations and are happy to chat and answer any questions you may have.

The other driver's insurance adjuster called me. Should I release my medical records to them?

No. Medical records are very private and you should not agree to release them until you have discussed your rights and options with a personal injury lawyer. You should also not make any more statements about the accident until you have consulted with the attorney. Oftentimes, insurance adjusters are simply looking for reasons to deny the claim, blame, or minimize the seriousness of the injuries.

What if my pain from the car accident did not show up for a few days?

It is not unusual that after an accident you feel perhaps "shaken up" or in minor pain, and it is not until later that you become aware of a more serious problem. It is always a good idea to go do your healthcare provider for a complete check-up. Hopefully, there is nothing serious that will not resolve itself with a little time and rest. However, sometimes there can be serious injuries that do not manifest themselves for some time. Head injuries, spinal injuries, and internal soft tissue injuries are a common examples. It is very important not to sign any release of liability or legal documents until you have received a medical examination and given a "clean bill of health" by your doctor.

Can I sue the driver of the car that I was a passenger in if they caused the accident?

Assuming your driver caused the accident, the general answer is that your driver is responsible for injuries caused by his negligence, even those of his passengers. Insurance coverage issues can be complicated. It is usually a good idea to discuss with a personal injury attorney insurance coverage issues and any limitations. Sometimes it might not be obvious which insurance policy is the correct one. For example, if the negligent driver at the time of the accident, was in the "course of scope" of his employment, his employer's insurance would be responsible as well. Or if the negligent driver was operating a car which is owned by someone else, and they gave permission to drive the car, that individual might be responsible as well.

How is "fault" determined?

Most of the time it is straightforward because the negligent driver was arrested or cited for a vehicle code violation. However, sometimes it is not clear who caused the accident. In those cases a thorough investigation is required. Police reports, eyewitness testimony, traffic video cameras, and accident reconstructionists are critical to establishing who was responsible for the car accident.

What damages can I recover for my injuries in an automobile collision?

Generally, a person is entitled to recover damages for past and any future medical expenses, past and any future wage loss, pain and suffering and compensation for any property damage. Sometimes, if the defendant's conduct in causing the accident is extremely reckless, a plaintiff may be awarded punitive damages as a monetary amount to "punish" the defendant.

What if the driver that caused the accident does not have any insurance?

If you're injured buy a driver that either has no insurance or insufficient insurance, hopefully, you have your own "UIM" policy. People who do not have insurance typically do not have much money, so they have nothing to lose if someone gets a judgment against them. Because of this, drivers in California often carry "uninsured motorist" coverage on their own policies. This coverage will reimburse you, or a member of your family, or a designated driver if one of you is hit by an uninsured or hit-and-run driver. If a driver who was at fault for an accident does not have any insurance, it can be difficult for the victim to recover compensation for losses sustained by the accident. Underinsured motorist coverage comes into play when an at-fault driver has insufficient insurance to pay for your total loss. This coverage will also protect you if you are hit as a pedestrian. Insurance coverage issues are complicated and it is always a good idea to consult with an attorney as soon as possible.

WHAT THE BIG PRINT GIVETH, THE SMALL PRINT TAKETH AWAY: This content is intended for educational purposes only. Phillips Law Offices is authorized to practice law only in California and the above content is intended for California residents only. This content provides only general information, which may or may not reflect current legal developments and you are advised to directly speak with an attorney who is familiar with all the facts and circumstances of your specific case and relevant laws. Phillips Law Offices expressly disclaims all liability in respect to actions taken or not taken based on any of the contents of this website. The above content DOES NOT create an attorney-client relationship and the Phillips Law Offices does not represent you unless you have expressly retained us in writing.